Opinions

Opinions

Linux performance: is Linux becoming just too slow and bloated?

This is an aspect of FOSS that is regaining some measure of interest: for years, it was considered that writing production-ready FOSS meant lean and mean software. However, recent events have shown that, in the case of the Linux kernel, this is no longer exactly true: performance is dropping slowly yet steadily.

How come?

Web code is already open - why not make it free as well

Oh dear. After the debacle with Microsoft Poland's apparent racist photoshopping, Microsoft China went and got the company in hot water for allegedly "stealing" code. Yes you read that right: Microsoft and wholesale "theft" of code from another website. Of course it's not "theft" it's copyright infringement but tomayto/tomarto. Microsoft confessed blaming a vendor they had worked with. No surprise really but the damage to their name may have already been done. There's more to discuss here than Microsoft's already tarnished reputation though. The issue raises some important points in favour of free software and points to why more if not all code should benefit from free licencing.

The rise of web applications and Chrome: it's all about timescales

The significant thing about Chrome is that it sets a new way of thinking. It does not mean Chrome will dominate the world. Open standards mean that other companies could provide similar services. It's the 80% scenario. 80% of what we do could be web based and probably will be in the future. It is near 100% for 80% of the population. It does not then make much sense to have everyone running a desktop OS just in case they might happen to want a specialist application that is dependent on that technology. Some people will still need this, but not the majority.

Open Science and climategate: The IPCC/CRU needs to take a leaf out of CERN's Book

This is not the place to debate the immense subject of climate science but it is necessary to say something about "climategate" in order to explain what happens when scientists and politicians collude to distort, hide and even destroy critical (raw) data and methodologies which, unlike the output of CERN, have absolutely colossal financial implications for every man, woman and child on this planet.

When Javascript became the world's new CPU

The computing world is always very unpredictable. That must be why there is a small number of people who make large amounts of money from it: they are in the right (unpredictable) place, at the right (unpredictable) time. Who would have ever guessed that Javascript, a simple scripting language initially thought as a simple means to make web pages "cooler", would become... drum roll... the world's new CPU?

I doubt anybody expected it. Even after seeing AJAX (which was ironically started by Microsoft...), very few would have bet that Javascript would become quite so important. Javascript is the only really widespread, multiplatform solution the modern IT world has seen. And yet, it made it. Google Documents is an office suite which runs in your browser -- and it's not even the best one. And that's only the beginning: the world is absolutely full of software -- and I am talking about full blown software -- which will run for you wherever you are.

Chrome OS and the death of the Free desktop: a response

The article "Google Chrome OS. Or, how KDE and GNOME managed to shoot each other dead" is intentionally outspoken and controversial. It invites comment and criticism - one can hardly declare two of the best known and most widely used Free Software projects to be "dead" without causing uproar.

A key part of the author's argument is that Google Chrome OS is likely to be both valuable to the public, and also very widely used. I'd like to contest the first part of this assumption.

Google Chrome OS. Or, how KDE and GNOME managed to shoot each other dead

A lot of people at the moment are immensely intrigued by Google Chrome OS. I won't hide that I am one of them. Google promises a much needed shift in the way small computers work. Problems like software updates, backups, installation, maintenance, viruses, have plagued the world for too long: a shift is way overdue. To me, however, the change about to happen shows us what many people have refused to believe for a long time: KDE and GNOME shot each other dead. I write this knowing full well that I am going to make a lot of people angry. This might be the first time a writer receives very angry responses from both camps -- KDE and GNOME's users might actually (finally?) join arms and fight just to show everybody how wrong I am!

Response to Sam Tuke's Response to "Is free software major league or minor?"

Thanks to Sam Tuke for a well-written and constructive response to my article Is free software major league or minor?. Tuke refers to my post as a "dismissal" of free software, however, which is ironic at best. There is no such dismissal in my article. Instead, there is a challenge: "Can we raise our game?" Furthermore, I would argue that classifying that challenge as a "dismissal" stems from a fundamental lack of faith in our ability to succeed -- which is ironically, the accusation Tuke levels at me. Where does this disconnect happen?

Free software in real business

Preamble

There are many "theoretical" talks about how free software can be used commercially, that it can greatly stimulate business activity and so on. There are very few real life examples of that. And most of them, as I can see, firstly had just common classical proprietary model of software development and only later some of them either freed their products or at least opened. As I can understand, only after fear of competition had gone they tried to made timid steps to open-source (as nearly none of them really understand difference between open-source and free software

Are Microsoft to blame for "hidden" malware costs and will Windows 7 make any difference?

A couple of stories have hit the headlines this year concerning the huge cost that some UK Local Governments incurred when dealing with malware attack on their Windows machines. If you missed them, Manchester City Council had a single USB infected with the infamous Conficker worm and it cost them -- brace yourself -- £1.5m (US$2.4m) of which £1.2m (US$1.9m) was spent on IT, of which a staggering £600,000 (US$980k) went on consultancy fees including money to Microsoft. A while later, Ealing Borough Council were hit with a cost of £500000 (about US$800k) when they were also hit by a single USB stick containing conficker. Some in the industry tweeted and blogged this as being a "hidden cost of using Microsoft Windows". In the ensuing discussion, many pointed out that the high cost was really due to the lack of a proper patching and disaster recovery policy at the council. So which is right? Is dealing with malware a hidden cost of using Windows or of a poor IT strategy?

Discovering "Sita Sings The Blues"

"Sita Sings The Blues" by self-taught animator Nina Paley, may be the first feature-length animated film released under a free license (the Creative Commons By-SA). Presented through a variety of animation styles and narrative tones, it fuses apparently disparate ideas and sources into a unified whole. An ancient Hindu epic, The Ramayana, is retold largely through the songs of a 1920s American singer, Annette Hanshaw. The mode of storytelling also mirrors aspects of the world-wide collaborative potential of twenty-first century art, reflected also in the film's real life controversies, including copyright entanglements and censorship concerns.

A response to "free software major league or minor?": Unjustified dismissal?

I just read Terry Hancock's artilce on Is free software major league or minor?. Great article, and I'm very glad to see articulate discussion about these core subjects. Not enough is said about these matters.

However, I disagree strongly on several points that your article raises. I'll take it point by point in an effort to not misrepresent your views and keep focussed on the statements that you have made.

Implementing a sensible copyright: "FLOW-IT"

It can be hard to get paid for producing free-licensed works. Software represents a niche where a lot of exceptions can be found, but for aesthetic works, the problem is severe. This has spurred a lot of innovative ideas for better incentive systems. Along the way, though, the most obvious and simple solution has mostly been overlooked: just re-implement the traditional limited copyright idea in a way that makes sense for the 21st century. Here's a simple solution that I call "FLOW-IT" for "Free Licensing Of Works -- In Time," which simply leverages existing Creative Commons licensing to do the job.

Linux-based phones : Why are GNU/Linux users treated as second class?

Like many free software users, I am greatly encouraged by the number of mobile phones that are starting to come out running some form of embedded Linux-based OS. Nokia's Maemo and Palm's webOS are shaping up and it seems every day we hear of yet another Android device. All of this is good news, but just how useful are these free software phones to the free software lover? Not as much as they could be it seems.

In praise of OpenOffice Base and good documentation

After downloading the whole suite of tools from OpenOffice.org, I have been exploring ways of using as many of them to teach an introductory statistics course. Since this is a class in a business school, I have some rather tough customers, who use the proprietary alternatives and are content doing so. In such a context, even one flaky in OO is enough to warrant a protest, or worse, a boycott.

Is free software major league or minor?

Is free software really capable of serving end users or not? This issue has political consequences, which is part of what makes it important: either free software is "minor league" or it's "major league". Which we believe has a big impact on what our expectations can be and what our political and ethical stance towards proprietary and free software should be.

Free-licensed art for free software games: OpenGameArt.org

Today I happened upon a site I really, really wish had been there in 2000 when I started my own game project. Free software games often suffer from poorly-executing graphics, simply because it's a real challenge coordinating both the artistic and software needs of a project. Few developers are good at both, and so it makes sense to accumulate commonly-needed elements in one place.

Proprietary browsers built on proprietary browsers: the blind leading the blind?

A friend of mine has an ADSL account with BT/Yahoo here in the UK. For some reason BT/Yahoo feel compelled to supply (nay insist upon) a customised version of I.E. as the browser for their customers. Okay so first things first: why choose I.E.? If you are thinking it's for that old chestnut of greater compatibility with a higher number of websites, think again. That argument would work if your customised browser was simply IE rebadged and to all intents and purposes presented as IE. This monstrosity doesn't -- it presents as a BT/Yahoo browser based upon IE. Thus some of the IE compatibility works and some doesn't. But there's more -- much more.

Free Software economics for Indigenous Nations

Information in the computer age is the last genuine free market left on earth except those free markets where indigenous people are still surviving (Russell Means)

Some of the surviving nations in North America have tried Casinos and call centers. Others have tried meat packing for freedom. Yet, unemployment remains high, over 80% for some communities, such as on the Lakotah reservations. Similarly, per capita income often remains below the poverty line. On the Lakotah reservations, per capita income is less than $4,000 annually. The exact story is of course different for each nation, but the overall results of these efforts have usually been rather bleak.

Could free software change things?

Secure VoIP, GNU SIP Witch, and replacing Skype with free software

For the last few years I had occasionally been working on what is called the GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative. The GNU Telephony Secure Calling initiative was itself originally formed specifically to make passive voice communication intercept a thing of the past using free software and public standards, and came out of ideas from and work of the New York City civil liberties community and New York Fair Use in the early part of this decade.

The results were great: a free infrastructure for secure calling. Here is how it all happened.

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